Three Cougar seniors stood in front of their home crowd for the last time Saturday as they finished off the regular season against Gonzaga. The players played with an extra portion of energy and intensity as they looked to enter the West Coast Conference Tournament on a high note. The two games lived up to the hype as they both were undecided until the final couple of minutes. Winning the first and losing the second solidified the Cougars as a 5th seed in the tournament this week and a match-up against the 4th seeded Saint Mary's Gaels.
Win over Portland
Once again the Cougars were led by a double-double from Morgan Bailey as she put up 17 points and 12 rebounds. BYU would start off strong with a quick five points but a drought of one basket in the next seven minutes put the Cougars in the hole. The Cougars would comeback behind 16 first half points from Lexi Eaton and took a thee point lead into the half, 32-29. Coming out of the half the Cougars allowed the Pilots to go on a 10-2 run as they fell behind by five. With a run of their own the Cougars took a ten point lead with six minutes left but allowed the Pilots back into the game. On the heals of a 12-2 Pilots run, the Cougars owned the possession with under 14 seconds play. Everyone expected the ball to be in the hands of the Cougars scorers, but in a surprise move the redshirt freshman Cassie Broadhead received the ball with five seconds left and drove the baseline while getting fouled on the shot leading to free-throws. After connecting on both shots the Cougars had a rare lapse in judgement, or responded to an inadvertent buzzer, and gave the Pilots a chance. With 1.3 seconds the Pilots inbounded the ball but it went past the intended player and headed out of bounds near mid-court. The clock was inadvertantly started and after the buzzer sounded to end the game Xojian Harry grabbed the ball just before it hit out of bounds and stepped out. After a lengthy review the officials determined that the clock should never have started and that Harry stepped out with .8 seconds left, giving the Pilots one shot off an inbound pass. The Cougars defense played tough but was just a step away as Portland let a long three point shot fly that hit the back of the rim to preserve the Cougars win. Eaton added 16 points, all in the first half, while Makenzi Morrison scored 10 in the win.
Loss to Gonzaga
In the final home game for the BYU seniors, the Cougars started off with a classy tribute for the Gonzaga seniors as they announced their names and gave them a small gift as they played their last regular season game in the Marriott Center. As if this wasn't enough, the Cougars announced senior Ashley Garfield with the starting lineups. For those that don't remember, Garfield had her season end after tearing her ACL in January. As the crowd cheered her addition to the introductions, Garfield walked to center court in full uniform. Thanks to a tremendous Gonzaga coaching staff, Garfield was allowed to stay on the court for the tip. Although she couldn't jump for the tip, just being on the court gave her one last moment in the spotlight that she rightly deserved. Gonzaga, in a true display of sportsmanship, won the tip and promptly used one of their own timeouts in order for a sub to come in for Garfield. Although the cheers and tears were meant for Garfield, the emotion was felt by the entire team as the game started.
The Cougars started out slow and found themselves in an early hole as they fell behind by 13. The Cougars were able to chip away at the lead and pulled within 3 with only seconds left in half. Gonzaga took full advantage of those seconds as they banked in a three point shot to end the half and take a 34-28 lead into the locker room. The teams traded baskets for much of the second half but an 8-2 run by Gonzaga once again pushed their lead to 13 with under 10 minutes to go in the game. With five minutes left and down eight the Cougars would take advantage of a crazy minute and a half to cut into the lead. The first sequence took place after a foul on Gonzaga that turned into a technical as the player threw Morrison to the floor after being called for the foul, resulting in four made free-throws by Morrison and the ball. After cutting the lead to four the Cougars couldn't take advantage of getting the ball back but about a minute later the Bulldogs were called for a flagrant foul when Morrison was hit with an elbow. Morrison hit two more free-throws and then Bailey converted on another two as the Cougars pulled within two at 64-62. With all the momentum going the Cougars way it seemed like an improbable comeback was in the makes, but a three minute drought by the Cougars ended their hopes and they fell to the Bulldogs 73-66. Morrison led BYU with 20 points as Bailey added 17. Kylie Maeda added 12 in the loss.
BYU will travel to Las Vegas to face off against Saint Mary's in the WCC Tournament Quarterfinals at 9pm MST on BYUtv.